Prepare to Die

Wrote this while two people in my life are actively dying, Mr. John Meehan, a friend and mentor, and my cousin’s husband, Larry Winger.  May God grant them peace…

Well, I’m feeling better – yes!  The pneumonia and bronchitis that could have killed my crippled, crumpled little body didn’t, new medication stopped my seemingly endless menstrual flow (and another new medication is on the horizon to, hopefully, shrink the huge uterine fibroids) and the usual treatment was able to put a mild Crohn’s disease flareup at ease.  Phew.  There is always the knowledge that I could catch another chest cold at any time, but I’m trying not to live in worry anymore.

And, of course, I still can’t walk, move my arms, hold my head upright, take care of myself, or breathe without rocking my body, but, for me, that’s just everyday, like the small stuff.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Christina Chase, crippled, hand, SMA

Because of all this, I feel a little more deeply into the season of Lent, which began with the reminder “Remember you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”  Lent, as I have written before, isn’t about doom and gloom but, rather, about preparing to live eternally – yet, this is also a what makes Lent a really good time of year to prepare to die.  Having recently experienced the fragile mortality of my body in an up close and personal way, I have been thinking about death more – and differently.  Preparing to live eternally and preparing to die are, in reality, the same thing.

Are You Prepared to Die?

Death is part of life and, so, it should be lived.  In our mainstream culture, we often think that it’s morbid, unhealthy, and just plain wrong to think about dying while we are living.  Many people don’t even want to talk about death at all.  It’s as though we think that, if we don’t think about it or talk about it, then it won’t come.

Ha.  It’s coming, like it or not. Continue reading

Inside Out

I would like

to have grown

from the inside out.

To know myself,

with my eyes closed,

closed eye

before I explore

the external world

of color, shape, and sound.

To learn, internally,

to hold onto and release

my anger and grief,

before my fists are formed.
baby-fist

As a baby, I instinctively

clutched

the brightly colored toys,

and my hands learned

to handle.

I would rather have learned,

emotionally,

to stack my joys

into a castle precarious,

beautiful,

and when it falls,

to laugh and rebuild.

blocks classic Castle

It seems to me

that we have all grown

from the outside in,

and our construction

has suffered from it.

For think how easy it is to see a light in the midst of darkness,

And yet how difficult to see a hope in the midst of despair.

candle_light_jesus_2_by_hari4u2-d5r1gjs

unpublished work © 2014  Christina Chase
as first posted on ChaseChristina.com

The Heavy-Laden One

Who amongst us isn’t wounded?  Who amongst us isn’t crippled in some way?  Who amongst us doesn’t bear the scars of past hurt or the pain of present heartache?  To be a living human is to breathe in and out, to think with the coursing of blood, to weep and to laugh, to taste a little bit of decay with every pleasure’s sigh.

No one can be alive and stagnant.  There must be ebb and flow, the breaking and remolding of every day.  For we do not contain within ourselves a still liquid, but, rather, a flowing stream of infinite love that must be given and received, which wears down every hardness and washes away the places of softness – so that ever and more we may be full of living love.

Do not be afraid.  Thousands have gone before you and thousands more are following; you are not alone.  The One who made the way leads you and protects you on all sides – thus that Beautiful One is the Way. JESUS-carrying-crossWounded, crippled, scarred, and pained, the Sublime One is your heartbeat, is your sorrow, is your joy, is the very marrow of your mind and very soul of your soul.  See how beautiful?  The Heavy-Laden One cries and sings with you – this Healing One waits for you beyond the edge of the last day.

unpublished work © 2015 Christina Chase

Grieving the Death of a Loved One: Beauty Speaks

My friend, whose husband died last December, is going through her year of firsts. The first Christmas without Dave. The first birthday without him. The first Easter… the first wedding anniversary…. Then came the first Father’s Day without the father of her children. She was washing the dishes at the kitchen sink, thinking about him and the sadness of his not being there as she gazed out of the window. A butterfly caught her eye as it flit by then returned to rest upon some flowers outside the window pane. And she wondered, “Dave, is that you?”Tiger swallowtail white flower

She does not believe in reincarnation. She believes in one life to live and eternal joy in Heaven. But, still, the wondering arose from the depths of her emotions and tickled her mind. Then, more soberly, she began to think that, perhaps, her husband had sent her this beautiful butterfly as a way of saying hello, to let her know that he is still with her, spiritually, and to make her happy.

My friend wanted to brush aside any seriousness of beliefs as she told me this story, not sure whether or not these thoughts would be considered as some kind of blasphemy in Catholic teaching. Her husband had been a deacon, as well as an engineer, and the theological world had always seemed very clear to him, while, to her, the only thing that was clear was kindness and its divine goodness. She had always said that he was a kind man. Now, with him gone, she turns to others to answer her theological questions – like our pastor, or the kindly woman who runs our parish prayer group, or even me. …And what was I to say?

I don’t know what the soul of a person can or cannot do after the body of the person has died. As a true believing Catholic, I don’t believe in reincarnation – what I do believe in is one life to live… one life to live eternally. I also truly believe, as I told my friend, that God speaks to us through beauty. This isn’t a formulized tenet of faith to which I have subscribed, but, rather, a deep conviction that I have always personally held – though I had never articulated it in words until that moment. My spoken response to my friend’s grief, joy, and wonder came from deep within my heart and opened my own mind a little more to the Mysteries of God.

Why couldn’t God send one of His tiny, winged creatures the widow’s way to cause her soul to marvel and her heart to be comforted by an awareness of everlasting love? Divine Love is ever present – my friend received it through the living body, mind, heart, and soul of her husband when he lived and breathed with us upon the earth… and the infinite depths of that personal love cannot die. The senses and the heart are touched by beauty and the soul’s memory is stirred… the gentle wing beat of a butterfly can remind us that we are intimately and infinitely loved.

© 2014 Christina Chase

Related posts that you may also like:

The Climbing Way
 When I Die

May

In the month of May, we honor motherhood – and the dead of war.

All over the earth, mothers watch their sons go off to war every day. The baby she once cradled in her arms, lovingly, tenderly keeping him from all of the world’s harms – a soldier now, battle ready, double-edged sword in hand. Hundreds… Thousands… Millions of boys become men ground up by the machinery of war; the blood of beloved sons spilled out, saturating field and forest or mingling with the salty tears of fathomless seas. What gain can be had by so great a cost? What treasure could entice a woman to offer as potential sacrifice a child whom she has raised and loved?

On battlefields and disputed fronts, in gunfights, bombings, and hand-to-hand combat, the cries and gory wounds of war march on… for country! And more deeply… for faraway home… for brothers in arms beside them… and mourning mothers kneel upon the mossing graves, a clutch of flowers in aging hands pressed against the stones.

This Spring, the Earth unfurls her verdant green banners and swells with the peaceful rush of life. This is the time of bright trumpeting daffodils and of violets… and also of forget-me-nots, and tulips reaching up from the ground like offered prayers. The lilies of the valley, demurely bowing their heads, white veiled, emit their sweet and heavy fragrance from the quiet of their leafy grottoes. And the robins redbreast are warming their nests of promised chicks in appletrees thick with blooms, undeterred by frost or storm… until, one day, in the month of May, the sky cloaked eggs will open and reveal new life being born.

Not so long ago, in pasturelands of deep country, farming families would gather at the crossroads to pray the rosary in the cool, clear of a May evening.

crossroads cross

St-Venant-de-Paquette, QC, Canada

In May, for our ancestors knew that the Queen of Heaven sits upon her mossy throne, bedecked with buttercups and bluets, with wild strawberry blossoms at her feet and purple lilacs at her shoulders. Her head is bowed, white veiled, and her cupped hands, like a chalice of petal flesh, catch the tears that are spilling out from her violet eyes and down her cheeks of new roses.

DSCN6716

La Grotte, East-Hereford, QC, Canada

She, too, has watched her son go off to war, like a lamb sent among wolves.

He laid bare the mighty enemy with the spiritual swiftness of his sword, but his brothers went astray and left him to the cruelty of men, to be tortured and humiliated. She saw her beloved son put to death before her eyes and her tears, her agony, could not end the madness, could not save him from the pain, could not spare him the grave. But… the stone that had marked the place where his lifeless body was laid to rest did not green over with the coming spring. The grave did not keep his mortal remains, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, for the life of her son is purely divine – and he did rise. And in rising to eternal life he raises dead sons and daughters, saving all with souls of faith, who valued others more than self.

The Mother of God saw her son, meek and humble and strong, go off to war and, though painfully grieved, did not begrudge the sacrifice – for the treasure won by his blood is the kingdom that has no end, not just for herself and him, but for every person of hope. The Kingdom where love is true armor, love the lance, love the way, love the victory without violence, the glory without gore, the eternal summer, the eternal spring. And, now, every day of firefight and weeping, every day of cold, barren darkness, every day of Renewing Life pushing up tender shoots, of flowers yielding to luscious fruits – every day is a memorial.

 © 2014 Christina Chase

with edits © 2016  Christina Chase


Photo credit: © 2014 Dan Chase

When I Die

This is a message that I plan to leave behind for my loved ones… and so… for everyone.

Yesterday, April 6th, I celebrated a milestone birthday – but, really, every birthday has been a kind of milestone for me since I was 13. For, when I was diagnosed with my motor neuron disease at the age of two, the doctors told my parents that I wouldn’t live to be a teenager. Thankfully, I have been given the gift of triple that prediction. With the fragility of my health, I am ever mindful that each birthday I celebrate may be my last – and I love life with all that I am. So, the words that follow are not mere words for me.

When I die – as all of us creatures must – I believe it will be according to God’s Perfect Will. If I am killed – because of murder, or because of injuries sustained in an accident, either negligent or willful – or if I die through neglect or the malpractice of mistake, then my death will be by God’s Permissive Will. God will permit the consequence that is my dying even though it will not be at the Divinely appointed time or in the Divinely appointed manner – but I believe that God will grant me, if I am one who truly loves, special grace so that I may spiritually experience the blessings that were divinely intended for me should I have lived out the fullness of my God-given lifespan.

And when I die, I want all of the people that I have loved to understand that in God there is only loving mercy. No matter the time, cause, or manner of my death, God’s love pours forth enough forgiveness to heal every wound, to right every wrong, to mend every broken heart, to save everyone in need of rescue. God’s love prevails. Eternally. And, so, joy does not end. If those who have loved me are unwilling to accept this truth, then, perhaps, they never truly loved me. When the time for heartbreak, anger, sorrow, mourning, and grieving is fulfilled, then those who have truly loved me will continue to love me without end. They will continue to love me without end by turning to God for Divine mercy and healing and by accepting the forgiveness that God’s love offers to everyone who seeks truth. The truth? The truth is that I have always belonged to God and I always will.

We creatures live and breathe upon the earth for only a short while; like the daffodils in the springtime, the blueberries of summer, all the autumn foliage, winter snowflakes, and animal life of soil, forest, field, water and air. We bloom in our season and then are seen no more by eyes that can weep, eyes that can close. The earth is ever full of beauty to behold, of tenderness and delight, and for as long as our earthly bodies draw in breath, let us breathe in the rich fragrance of life, never jealous of what God has created – never holding on too tightly or wresting too vehemently in the self-centered wish to possess. Everything belongs to God and that is the true glory of every thing, every place, every moment, every person. Nothing exists without God. With God is every experience of joy, of love, of beauty, of goodness, of life. And the suffering that we experience as we live and breathe upon the earth are reminders that we are not our own, that we are not God, and that we do not create the beauty that we behold.

The sufferings of life are reminders that can return our minds and hearts to the Source of Being and, so, to know the peace that the world cannot give, the peace that is the fullness of joy. If we do not let our sorrows, pains, losses, frustrations, angers, afflictions and conflictions serve us as reminders, then we stray into the abyss.

The abyss is of the fallen, of those who turn away from God’s mercy and healing, of those who turn away from the truth. It is the destruction chosen by warlords and the perverse abuse that is the domain of the selfishly wicked: the terror and trauma inflicted by those who will not accept the truth. Those who will not love the beauty of Creation as God’s creation, those who will not love human beings as images and likenesses of God, those who will not love themselves as sacred creatures belong eternally to God – these will choose to turn away from truth, to reject holiness, to deny Divinity and so will close themselves off from the Divine love, mercy, and healing that can only be received by those who are open to reception. They will fall to deception and will not be able to recognize true beauty and delight in true life.

I pray my loved ones will not fall to such deception when, after mourning my death, the time comes to heal. Everything is in Divine hands. God is all in all. If there is any joy in life, if there was ever any beauty in my being upon the earth – then it is the joy and the being of the Beautiful One who made me… and Who holds me, with the tenderest loving embrace, eternally. I am where I belong.

God loved me into existence. And God has already saved my life. When I die, see and recognize the grace among the living… Turn to the Infinite/Eternal One from whom all life comes, to whom all love returns, and know peace, forgiveness, healing, strength, joy. Life is beautiful… because the Beautiful One lives.

Christina Chase